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A Rationale of Textual Criticism

By G. Thomas Tanselle

Publication Year: 2011

Textual criticism—the traditional term for the task of evaluating the authority of the words and punctuation of a text—is often considered an undertaking preliminary to literary criticism: many people believe that the job of textual critics is to provide reliable texts for literary critics to analyze. G. Thomas Tanselle argues, on the contrary, that the two activities cannot be separated.

The textual critic, in choosing among textual variants and correcting what appear to be textual errors, inevitably exercises critical judgment and reflects a particular point of view toward the nature of literature. And the literary critic, in interpreting the meaning of a work or passage, needs to be (though rarely is) critical of the makeup of every text of it, including those produced by scholarly editors.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

COPYRIGHT

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CONTENTS

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pp. vii-

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PREFACE

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pp. 9-

THE three lectures printed here have been revised only slightly from the form in which they were delivered, on April 21, 23, and 28, 1987, as the Rosenbach Lectures at the University of Pennsylvania. My aim in these lectures is to present a rationale of...

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I: THE NATURE OF TEXTS

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pp. 11-38

WHEN Keats, reflecting on the Grecian urn, wrote that it could "express / A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme," he was provoking us to consider the difference between pictorial art and works made of words. By calling the urn a "historian," he made clear that he was concerned ...

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II: REPRODUCING THE TEXTS OF DOCUMENTS

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pp. 39-66

THE evidences of human activity are everywhere around us, most noticeably in the form of artifacts, and in each of them we can, if we wish, read messages from the past. In objects that appear to be utilitarian we can try to read details of the daily affairs of those who preceded us, and in objects...

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III: RECONSTRUCTING THE TEXTS OF WORKS

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pp. 67-94

TH E woman walking along the Key West strand, in Wallace Stevens's poem, transmutes the sea into her song; but the two are different, we are told, "Even if what she sang was what she heard, / Since what she sang was uttered word by word." In verbal communication, everything depends...

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POSTSCRIPT

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pp. 95-98

EACH of the concerns touched on here has been the subject of a voluminous literature, extending back over the centuries, and debates about such issues will continue endlessly, as long as there are minds to address them. Readers who desire suggestions for pursuing what has been said about one...

INDEX

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pp. 99-104


E-ISBN-13: 9780812200423
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812214093

Page Count: 104
Publication Year: 2011